Arts & Entertainment
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The Ottawa Wolves’ annual cruise comes early in 2016

Ottawa’s inclusive rugby club plans aquatic kick off to summer

From The Ottawa Wolves’ 2015 cruise, a perfect snapshot of what to expect: dancing, cute people and sports-related injuries.  Credit: Alexandre Brault

Is there anything sadder than a bunch of desperately lonely men and women rugby players leaning over the railing of a boat, wailing and weeping pitifully into the uncaring Ottawa river? Of course not — this is objectively the saddest possible image.

For those who have somehow miraculously managed not to have heard of The Ottawa Wolves, it’s a predominantly gay rugby club dedicated to welcoming underrepresented people to the sport. Its annual boat cruise raises funds for the club’s day-to-day functioning and participation in various tournaments.

The club’s September 2015 cruise wasn’t precisely as grim as described, but it didn’t go quite as well as planned. “Attendance was a bit down,” communications director François Châteauvert says. He blames Ottawa’s chilly September weather and the evening’s sporadic rains.

Consequently, it was decided that the 2016 cruise would take place several months earlier, in sunny June (June is bound to be sunny — even in Ottawa). “We wanted to make sure it was going to be warm outside so that everybody will want to come out,” he says. “It’s also kind of our kick off to summer.” In other words, there will be no tears in the river this year (fictitious or not).

Now in its fourth year, the cruise is an opportunity for members of the public to have a big party with The Wolves on a boat. With Ottawa’s DJ Matt Tamblyn spinning, attendees can dance or socialize the evening away as the three-level Empress of Ottawa drifts amiably past museums and the parliament buildings. The boat’s open top deck offers a great view of Rideau Falls and the sunset.  

If the fundraiser is successful, the team should be able to replace some of its equipment, which will help attract new members to replenish its ranks. Châteauvert says that the club’s membership has dipped in the last few years, with some members leaving because of injuries or because they felt they were getting a bit too old to continue in the rough sport.

“Having the proper equipment to attract people is key for us,” he says. “That includes things like more rucking pads — that’s pads that you can hold up and tackle without hurting yourself. We need to constantly renew the balls — they get pretty banged up pretty quickly.”

Club members should be particularly feisty, because the cruise takes place mid-season this year and both the men’s and women’s teams will have played a game either that day or the day before. “The cruise is sort of our ‘third half,’” he says. “A rugby match has two halves, and then the third half is afterward, when you go out to the bar and drink and make friends with the people you were just beating on.”

This time around, the public will stand in for the club’s opponents. Thankfully, attendees won’t have just been beaten on, but they will get the drinking and making friends part of the deal.